Casualties During My Tour

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While I was with the 1st Platoon of Charlie company, we lost two men KIA, and suffered several WIA. We did not suffer any MIA. The first person killed was 1st Lt John Easton, of Anaheim, CA. He died in the early morning hours of September 25th, 1968, in a place we called Happy Valley, but was actually referred to as the Suoi Cai valley on the topo maps. It was very near LZ Jenny, a ROK Army (Tiger Division) firebase that had towed 155mm howitzers of WWII vintage. The grid coordinates are BR 829-594.

We were part of a blocking force that was supposed to be the Anvil end of the classic Hammer-and-Anvil manueover. At about 1am, elements of the 18th "B" NVA Regiment (or so the intel guys said) lobbed a couple of dozen 82mm rounds our way. One impacted directly beside where SP4 Billy Kneipp, PFC Bill Cunningham, and I were sleeping next to the tank. The shrapnel from the exploding round passed over me and Kneipp, and struck Cunningham in the right knee, and Easton, alone atop the tank on guard, in the head. While Kneipp manned the caliber .50 machine gun and sprayed the area around the perimeter of our vehicle, I moved Easton onto the back deck of the tank and administered first-aid. I was amazed that I remembered how to do it, especially under the circumstances: there is alot to be said for U.S. Army training. After tending to Easton and calling for a Dustoff on the radio, I lobbed a couple of canister rounds toward the bad-guys. God only knows if I hit any, but it made me feel better to do something. With the help of a Spooky gunship (only the Smith-Corona Commandoes called it Puff) that dropped huge Navy parachute flares to illuminate the LZ, we got Easton evacuated. An hour later we heard he died in surgery at the 17th Field Evac Hospital at the 1st Cav's base camp at Ane Khe. Cuningham was evacuated on the same chopper and we received a letter from him in a hospital in Japan a few weeks later telling us they saved the leg, but that he would always limp.

Sometime in November of 1968 we suffered two additional casualties. While moving my tank, Charlie One-Two onto strongpoint 10, on a hill east of LZ Action on Hwy 19, SP4 Thomas Rapp was wounded by shrpnel from an exploding M-79 round. The round was apparently fired the previous night by an ambush platoon and was lying on the ground in the path of the tank. Rapp and SP4 Charles "Chuck" Barker were out in front of our tank looking for enemy mines. When Rapp approached the unexploded ordnance, it exploded, possibly from the tank shaking the ground. Rapp lost some tissue from the fingers of his left hand and was evacuated to An Khe. He fully recovered the use of the two damaged fingers in about a month.

The next group casualties occured on the morning of January 16, 1969. We had spent the night at LZ Schueller (named after 1Lt James Patrick Schueller), a fire support base on Highway 19. While returning from bridge guard duty on bridge 27, Charlie 14 and Charlie 15 were ambushed by the NVA/VC midway between Bridge 25 and Pump Station number 7. SFC Allan Scavella, a 16-year veteran of the Army, was killed when a B40 rocket from an NVA RPG-7 hit him in the back. The anti-tank rocket had been intended to strike the tank, which would have quite probably killed the entire four man crew and destroyed the vehicle, but it missed and hit Scavella instead. His loader, PFC Patterson, was wounded seriously, but his wounds were not considered life threatening.

On this same day, 1LT Thomas E. Hatcher was wounded by shrapnel in a separate engagement. The enemy launced an ambush of the one tank force dispatched to go to the aid of MSG Scavella's two vehicles ambushed earlier. The wounds were not life threatening and LT Hatcher was evacuated to LZ Uplift for convalesence. Hatcher had been the platoon leader for less than a month when he was wounded.

Wounded in the same engagement was SSG Chester L. Brewer. Chet was evauated to the 17th Field Hospital at Camp Radcliff and operated on immediately. He sent us a letter on February 5th, 1969, indicating that he would recover, but that he might have permanent paralysis of his right arm.

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Creation Date: Friday, March 29, 1996
Last Modified: Saturday, September 21, 1996
Copyright © Ray Smith, 1996